John Henri Isaac Browere


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Sculptor and painter. Devoted almost exclusively to portrait sculpture, Browere occupies a distinctive niche in its history. To insure verisimilitude, he made a specialty of taking life masks from his sitters, using a light, quickly hardening plaster. From the resulting molds he made plaster positives, which he refined by hand and set off above generalized shoulders covered with togalike drapery that contributes an air of permanence and distinction. Although his combination of literal realism and neoclassicism appealed to tastes of his day, he generally failed to be taken seriously as an artist because of the supposedly mechanical nature of his procedure. His hopes to obtain public commissions for bronze replicas of his plaster images of American statesmen and other notables went unfulfilled. Born John Henry Brower in New York, he later gave his name a more stylish flair. He attended Columbia College (now University), took drawing lessons, taught school in Tarrytown (north of the city) for three years, painted portraits and miniatures, and fashioned his first busts before departing to travel and study in Europe for two years. After his return he journeyed around the country accumulating portraits for a gallery of distinguished Americans, which he opened in New York in 1828. His subjects included John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, the visiting Marquis de Lafayette, and other important figures of the Revolutionary generation and Federal era. He also wrote art criticism, signed Middle-Tint the Second. He died at his home in New York.

Painter Albertus De Orient Browere (also Alburtis or Albertis) (1814–87), his son, is known primarily for landscapes and genre scenes, but he also produced still lifes and narrative inventions. Born in Tarrytown, as a young artist in New York he exhibited scenes from history or literature. Particularly attracted to the writings of Washington Irving, he continued to mine these for occasional subjects even late in life. About 1840 he settled permanently in the area of Catskill, New York, and there added landscape subjects to his narrative interests. His work often fails to integrate individual elements into a convincing whole, but rather makes its appeal through attention to particulars delineated with a robust and frequently satirical spirit. Two trips to the West provided subjects for many of his most interesting scenes. In 1852 he sailed around Cape Horn to California, primarily to prospect for gold. After a subsequent period of about two years at home, in 1858 he traveled again to California, this time crossing the Isthmus of Panama, which inspired some tropical scenes. He painted in San Francisco until 1861, often documenting gold mining and other regional activities within his landscapes.

Subjects: Art.

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